Tuesday Victories | 10.17

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

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1. Little Local Pumpkin Patches- Matt and I stumbled upon a local fall festival last weekend and it was just adorable! Right in the middle of a neighborhood with a beautiful brick house on the property with parking in the grass and apple cider slushies and donuts. Perfect Saturday afternoon outing.

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2. Hosea 6:1-3– I’m reading through the prophets in my Bible reading plan and while they made no sense to me last year, research and questioning and intentional reading strategies and prayer are leading me to understanding. These verses have been ringing in my head for weeks as I trust that the Lord tears us down so that he may heal us and strikes us down so that He may bind us up. Getting rid of sin is hard, but if reading Scripture is teaching me anything, it’s that God never ends in the anger or destruction of our sin, but rather in the redemption and the binding up and the healing.

3. One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church by Gina Dalfonzo– I had read a few articles by Dalfonzo in Christianity Today before finally picking up this book and shoot. dang. I read it most of it in one sitting during a work day at school while my students wrote essays because I could not put it down. She offers a fascinating critique of the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” purity culture as a potential reason for the increasing number of singles in the church and how the church can best respond to this incredible group of people who often feel left out and abandoned in mostly family-centered church cultures. And it’s more than just a critique, but also a beautiful picture of how all people, regardless of relationship status, are to live in community together in the local church. The audience for this book is really for anyone who is invested in their church and looking for a better way forward for all people to belong.

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4. Companies like this: I went back home this past weekend and my mom treated one of my best friends (who is married to my brother’s best friend), my brother’s girlfriend (who we adore!) and me to painting custom wooden signs at a local business. We spent a few hours painting wood pallets and chatting and retouching our mistakes and all walked away filled with conversations and beautiful art for our homes. It was the best!

5. Q Commons– Indy friends! This event is one of my favorites. First of all, if you haven’t checked out Q Ideas yet, go do that now! Q Ideas is an organization that asks questions about current culture and how, as a faith community, we can respond lovingly and intentionally to a hard world. They have local events all over the world on October 26, including one downtown Indy, and the topic this year is “Healing our divided nation” because hello, that’s important right now. There will be 3 national talks live streamed and then 3 local talks from people in indy regarding this topic. Matt and I will be there and we are so looking forward to learning alongside people in our city (also- Q Commons was where we went on our 3rd date two years ago, so it’s also a sentimental thing for us too!). If you’re not in Indy, see if your city is on the list! Get tickets here.

6. Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not About You by Sharon Hodde Miller– THIS BOOK. Goodness gracious YES. Talk about a book that is deeply needed for right now. I finished this book this afternoon (thank you for extra reading time, fall break) and I already want to read through it again. Miller challenges her readers to, instead of covering insecurities and struggles with positive self-help talk, look to Jesus, since this is the better way according to Scripture. She explains what it really looks like to die to self and live in Christ and it’s through this truth that I’ve been finding so much freedom during the past several months.  Miller’s writings have been one of the chief voices the Lord has been using to usher me into this better way of submission and abundance with Jesus and I’m excited to see how the Lord is going to use her to teach more women about this truth.

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7. Dance, Stand Run: The God Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground by Jess Connolly– I have been talking up this book for months and it comes out NEXT WEEK! Get ready, friends. It’s a good one. Currently looking for women to read this with, discussing either through the web or in real life or both! Let me know if you’re in. Pre-order this book now! I promise you’re not going to want to miss it.

 

The One About Body Image

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I spent a lot of my engagement worrying, controlling, and trying to work my body into something different– something thinner, smaller, leaner. My worries would ebb and flow, typically depending on how I ate that week or how many times I was able to get to the gym.

During my first dress fitting, I remember feeling immediately discontent after looking into the mirror because my reality of how I looked didn’t meet my expectations. And then I felt angry and sad and ashamed because my thoughts clashed with what my mom and the alteration lady were proclaiming and what I knew Matt would think- that me in the dress was perfect and beautiful and stunning.  

I wish I could say that my worries about my body only started a year ago, but they didn’t. The earliest memory I have was in middle school. I was looking around at my peers in the hallway and I realized that my body wasn’t as lean or tiny as some of the other girls and I hated it. I didn’t understand why my body was betraying me– I had always been able to measure up to the skinniest girls before.

This struggle has lasted through high school dance dress shopping and band concerts with unflattering uniforms. It was present in every sport I played, where I was never the best or most fit, and in the locker room after my personal fitness class for two years. It carried me through prom and graduations and dorm life where comparison is hard to avoid. And it followed me to my wedding– the very place I didn’t want it to show it’s face and even though I hate to admit this, when I look back on my otherwise beautiful engagement and wedding, my struggle with my body was there, looming in the background of every fitting and party and picture.

A few years back, I ran my second half marathon. Finding time to run during the week and the stamina to complete long runs on the weekend was tough. Runs that used to be seemingly effortless in college were now difficult and this defeated me. After an intended 9 mile run turned into a 4 mile run, I plopped down in front of my mirror, fuming and angry at my body and myself for not being able to push through to complete the miles I needed in order to stay on track in my training schedule. At the time, I was on the launch team for Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan’s Wild and Free. I had been praying and thinking of aspects of my life where I needed the Lord’s freedom and I remember entertaining the idea of what it would be like to be wild and free from the strict expectations I put around my body and fitness and diet. What if how I looked and having the perfectly balanced diet all the time and logging in so many hours at the gym just didn’t matter as much as I perceived it did?

I hate admitting that this is really the first time I had considered this. This is the first time I really acknowledged my negative body image as a legitimate problem and pondered the reality that the Lord is strong enough to free me from the shackles of comparison and discontentedness and control– all I need to do is accept and receive Him, every minute of every day, again and again and again. And gosh this is hard, not impossible, but hard to believe and do in a society that pushes us to be perfectly fit and healthy and thin.

I want to say that I’m done struggling, but I’m not. I fought my body image battle through the past few summers and my engagement. While this summer was so, so good as Matt and I enjoyed our newlywed-ness and our trips to different places and feasting with family and friends, once all those things were over, I took stock of how the experiences took their toll on my body and started shaming myself over not being disciplined enough at the table or the gym and found myself in the depths of comparison and control once again.

We clearly live in a society that values physical health. The benefits are proclaimed over and over– we’ll have tons of energy and can mentally process better and have an all around better attitude in life if we’re eating well and exercising often. And I’m all for this- I love eating well and exercising and I think they can be done in a worshipful, God-honoring way because we are called to steward our bodies. But when I go into a Whole30 or the gym with the wrong motivation, it stops becoming healthy. When I’m trying to control my body into something smaller in order to feel better or happier or to prove that I’m good at life, I’m just feeding myself a lie that those things can satisfy something in me when really, only God can.

Writing these things down is hard- I’ve never done this before. But after another summer of attempting to shame and control my body into something better so that I can feel good about myself, I walked into work for another school year and I heard my coworkers and students and players echoing the same comments and aggravations I had all summer. And I thought that there has to be a better way– enough of us are struggling with this and there’s got to be something better.

And friends, there is. The answer isn’t seeking flattery and reminders of our beauty or enoughness. The answer and the way is Jesus- it’s always Jesus. This may be our weakness, but the Lord is sufficient and he’s really good at using our lack to prove that He is enough to a people who desperately need it– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 promises us this. He came because of love and died because of love and now we get to play in his grace and enter into holy places all because of Him, but only when we admit our weakness and confess this hard, prideful, controlling sin. The way is learning to submit to the Lord’s purpose every single day, deeming it our own by walking in it, trusting that it’s better.

Our purpose is not our bodies. It’s not how we look or how we feel and while we should pursue health, we can’t forget to pursue Christ first. We can’t forget that our purpose is to love Jesus and to love the people around us well. I’m preaching all of this to myself first– stumbling into submitting to the Lord every day. My steps are shaky and I fail often, but repentance and grace are helping me move forward anyway. If you’re here too, walking this hard, broken path with me, please know that you’re not alone and that Jesus is always, always better.

 

So many of my ideas were derived from Jess Connolly’s new book Dance Stand Run. I’m on her launch team and this book is WRECKING ME. Such great stuff. Preorder it here

Also- from this sermon by Scott Sauls. He’s currently doing a series on Romans 8. AMAZING. Go listen now. You’ll find that here

Tuesday Victories | 6.6

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories– words, things, and moments– getting me through the week:

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1. The new She Reads Truth Romans study– I love everything She Reads Truth produces. Each plan is simply scripture with a short devotion and this summer we’re walking through Romans- one of my favorite books of the Bible, especially after having to do an intensive study over it for a Bible class in college. I’m so, so excited to be digging into this book once again! We just started yesterday, so it’s not too late to join! Check it out here

2. Fresh squeezed orange juice- we have a local market here in Indy that sells fresh squeezed orange juice (with just oranges! No sugar! Praises.) and it’s my current summer favorite. Yes please!

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3. This pun book– because it’s adorable and it’s sitting on my coffee table which is in front of the sofa I’m always sitting on now because summer as a teacher. Right on Thyme? Find Your Porpoise? Honey Bee Yourself? And those illustrations?! Goodness I love puns. The best. Thanks to my friend Katy for this gem!

4. Amazon family accounts- because this means I have access to my husband’s massive Kindle library and this was the best discovery. Nerdy kid in a candy store right here.

5. Struck by Russ Ramsey– A quick, but impactful read of a man’s reflections on life as he closely encountered death through a random virus in his heart. I sat at the pool late last week tearing up behind my sunglasses as I inhaled Ramsey’s words. Beautiful and brutally honest reflections about Jesus, marriage, relationships, and death. And as a newlywed, the tears kept coming until the last page with this one.

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6. These running shoes- I just started routinely running again because I realized I need the therapeutic qualities pounding my feet on pavement over and over quickly provides me. And without good shoes, this would be an even more painful endeavor than running (and working through all the things in my head) already is. And also, this is probably the fifth pair of these shoes that I’ve owned. They’ve been my loyal road companions for the last six years and it’s been nice to be reacquainted with them recently.

7. McAlisters– I meet with women from my church- women who have become some of my dearest friends in Indy- here every Tuesday to talk about Jesus and life and all the random things in-between. I order a grilled chicken salad and grilled chicken spud every time and now we get to sit outside because it’s warm and I just love it.

Happy Tuesday, friends! Enjoy the sunshine and the fact that it’s summer YAY!

How I’m Finding Meaning

Over Christmas break, Matt and I soaked up a rare morning together as we sat on the sofa at his brother’s house. I leaned my head on his shoulder and we talked about our Bible readings that morning. He told me about John 15, explaining how it was a passage describing vines and branches, death and flourishing, and how Jesus is who we grow and multiply from, that apart from him we can do nothing.

That apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

These words have been rattling around my head ever since, coming to the surface as I teach high schoolers and drive home from church and am engaged in conversations. I’ve heard them before. I’ve read through John’s account of the Gospel for classes and in She Reads Truth studies and John 15 was even the central text of a Youth Conference I helped plan in college. But as only powerful, life-giving texts can provide, I found new meaning in these particular words on this cloudy December morning in Kansas.

I’m reading through the Bible this year and as I spend my time working through my allocated chapters for the day, I find myself sneaking away to John 15 even though I’m not quite there yet in my reading schedule. I’ve spent a lot of time in this chapter, circling and underlining and coming away consistently refreshed, renewed and reminded to seek Jesus. I’m revived knowing that I don’t have to grow and multiply and influence and live well all on my own.

John 15 likens our relationship with Christ to vines and branches, that he is the vine and we are the branches. As branches, we are connected to the vine, abiding and growing and soaking in life and energy from our source. And our source here, as Christians, is Jesus and his love. The first part of this passage establishes that we cannot function well without Christ- that no good thing can come from us unless we are rooted in Jesus. The second part teaches us that when we abide in our source, we will find strength to follow what he says is best and as a result, live in the fullness of joy.

In the past few years, and really in the past several months, I’ve felt this push towards meaning. I want to create it, live in it and engage with it. I want my life to matter and I want this meaningfulness to seep into my relationships and classroom and writings and online spaces. I want to pack as much in as possible in every moment, trying hard to make sense of the things around me. I feel the pressure to do something with this meaning, and there are just so many things I want to write about and read about and so many people I want to sit down and learn from and share with.

Sometimes this pressure can feel so overwhelming, so daunting that I find myself doing nothing. That instead of writing or reading or planning coffee dates, I spend another half-hour scrolling social media because it’s easier. And then another day angry at myself. And another moment feeling jealous of the woman who is doing the thing I wish I was doing. And another minute believing that I’m not enough because I’m not trying hard enough. It’s a nasty cycle.

I’m slowly learning that instead of trying harder and living in my inadequacies, to turn to John 15 and to remember. I’m finding out that what I think is a craving for meaning is really a craving for Jesus. That my desire for influence is really a desire to abide in the Lord, to know him as my source and home and to trust that he can do more through me than I could ever imagine. The most important thing I’ve learned is that Jesus is better. He is better than my plans and dreams and good intentions and John 15 tells me one reason why- because he is my source. Because I wasn’t created to thrive on my own, to share this Good News on my own, to find meaning on my own.

John 15 talks about fruit, that when we abide in Jesus and let him into our spaces, into all of our lives, he allows himself to be known through us by how we live. Our fruit is compassion and love for others and patience. It’s our ability to connect with the people around us and to encourage, to uplift and walk alongside the hurting and to make good choices. And it’s this fruit that leads us to meaningfulness, but if we just keep trying hard to get this fruit we will be trying in vain, because it’s only accessible through Jesus.

Friends, I know I’m not the only one who craves meaning and I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt stuck trying to find it and express it. I figured you might need this reminder just as much as I do– that we cannot do anything good, beautiful, or meaningful without abiding in Christ, without creating a home in him and allowing him to abide in every moment of our lives. And so, as you go about your day, remember Jesus. Remember that he is better, that he is worth investing in and that he can create meaning through your life because he is the very meaning you desire.